Katrina Prescott, left, poses for a photo with her mother Kathryn Love in this undated handout photo before her mother’s dementia worsened significantly. Katrina Prescott came up with a set of strict COVID-19 rules for health-care experts coming into the house to look after her mother, Kathryn Love, who suffers from dementia and is at high risk of contracting the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Katrina Prescott *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Katrina Prescott, left, poses for a photo with her mother Kathryn Love in this undated handout photo before her mother’s dementia worsened significantly. Katrina Prescott came up with a set of strict COVID-19 rules for health-care experts coming into the house to look after her mother, Kathryn Love, who suffers from dementia and is at high risk of contracting the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Katrina Prescott *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Waiting for treatment taking toll on patients with chronic illnesses

Thousands of patients across the country have had procedures postponed due to the pandemic

Jill Fletcher has spent much of the last year waiting to have both knees replaced while dealing with “brutal” pain after her cortisone shots were reduced to every six months from three to prevent further deterioration of the little cartilage she has left.

“I’ve been in a wheelchair. I may end up there again before I get going on this,” she said of the delay in scheduling her surgery, which would involve the removal of a plate and five screws in each knee from previous operations due to a condition since childhood that resulted in malformed knees.

“Before COVID, it was ‘OK, I can just phone, get things set up and it’ll be in four months.’ Now I have no idea,” she said from Renfrew, Ont., about an hour’s drive west of Ottawa.

“It’s just throwing everything off. It’s harder to see the family doctor. I haven’t had a physical either. That was cancelled as well.”

Fletcher, 58, is among thousands of patients across the country whose procedures have been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, resulting in more physical and emotional distress.

She said the wait for a risky surgery weighs heavily on her husband and their two sons who still live at home and help out with more chores but also worry about her declining health.

“I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit uncomfortable being in a hospital during COVID, too,” Fletcher said of travelling to Ottawa for the procedure. She also feels vulnerable until she has been vaccinated, but that may not happen in Renfrew for her age group until August.

Support programs for chronically ill patients are an essential part of their care, said Eileen Dooley, CEO of HealthPartners,a collaboration of 16 health charities such as the Alzheimer Society, Parkinson Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

HealthPartners commissioned an online survey of 3,000 people, including 1,144 with a chronic condition or major illness, and found the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on patients, 43 per cent of whose treatment has been cancelled or postponed, affecting their quality of life.

It was conducted by Abacus Data between Jan. 9 and 13 and showed 67 per cent of caregivers said they were less healthy overall due to their increased burden, versus 60 per cent of the patients and 57 per cent of all Canadians.

For the total number of respondents, the survey is accurate to within 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. It’s accurate to within 2.8 percentage points for the patients, and 4.2 per cent for caregivers.

Dooley said the charities that connect patients and families, provide transportation to appointments and information on community services have been hit hard by a loss of donations, many of which fund research.

“They provide a real buffer between the formal health-care system and Canadians in terms of being on the front line for support: letting people know where to get assistance, connecting them with others who’ve had their disease, providing transportation.”

Dooley called on federal and provincial governments to provide funding for charities as part of the overall effort to bolster supports for Canadians in multiple sectors that have also suffered financially during the pandemic.

It’s not just patients themselves who are affected by delays in treatment and interruptions in support programs — the survey for HealthPartners, says 524 caregivers also responded and that 53 per cent of them reported the pandemic affected their mental health.

Katrina Prescott of Vancouver was so afraid that a visiting health-care worker would transmit COVID-19 to her mother that she ensured everyone coming to their home knew about “the rules” — her strict safety precautions.

A nurse practitioner, a nurse who specializes in wound care, a rehabilitation assistant, a home-support worker and a physiotherapist are among those caring for 69-year-old Kathryn Love, who suffers from dementia and is at high risk of contracting the virus.

Prescott required them to place belongings in a plastic bin and immediately head to the bathroom, disinfect any surfaces they’d touched before washing their hands for 20 seconds and don personal protective equipment, including gloves, which would have to be washed often or cleaned with alcohol.

“When the whole thing happened I thought ‘how the heck am I going to let people come in here?’ It was a 911. So I came up with a system,” she said.

Prescott made the“really stressful decision” to continue having health-care workers in the house as some others in a similar situation cancelled services to eliminate the possibility of their loved ones being infected, she said.

Losing that support would have left her as the only round-the-clock caregiver, which she considered “unimaginable for my survival.”

She worried about not having any respite, let alone having time for sleep, a shower or cooking a meal.

Even with help, the emotional strain of caring for a family member who is unable to walk or talk took such a toll on the Vancouver resident that she got extra counselling online.

Prescott said the mental-health implications on caregivers who juggle multiple responsibilities for their chronically or seriously ill loved ones are overwhelming at any time, but a year of greater-than-usual isolation has brought people to the breaking point.

Sherri Mytopher was diagnosed in 2013 with relapse remitting multiple sclerosis, the most common form of the disease that is characterized by a range of unpredictable symptoms including, like in her case, fatigue and numbness in the hands, arms and legs.

An annual appointment with a neurologist who travels from Vancouver to her northern British Columbia city of Fort St. John was expected last May or June but was put off until October, when it was done over Zoom, said Mytopher, 40, who volunteers with a regional chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, which offers support to patients and families.

“I felt frustrated,” she said of her concerns about the lack of a physical assessment to gauge the progression of her disease, adding stress is the biggest contributor to flare-ups of her symptoms.

“There’s a fear that came with it, like ‘When will I get answers to the questions I have?”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School South Campus Monday morning to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Students protest proposed cuts to SD61 music programs

Proposed $1.5-million cut would hit elementary and middle school programs

Victoria police are investigating the cause of a single-vehicle crash that sent one person to hospital early April 12. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Single-vehicle crash topples Victoria hydro pole, sends one to hospital

Police investigating whether speed or impairment were factors

Vaisakhi normally would have volunteers like these women (in Surrey from a past year) preparing food ahead of the festival to be given out to the hundreds of thousands of spectactors. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria Sikhs observe Vaisakhi virtually, but find a way to give out food

Food and taking care of those in need is a big part of Sikh teachings

Esquimalt High School is one of six Greater Victoria schools that reported a COVID-19 exposure over the weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Six new Greater Victoria school exposures reported over weekend

Steady rise in school exposures since return from spring break

The District of North Saanich has issued a notice to remove this floating structure from the waters off Lillan Hoffar Park. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Boat owner ordered to vacate waters off North Saanich park

Couple have been living in floating structure off Lillian Hoffar Park for a number of years

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Most Read